I Feel My Boobs- 8 Unglamorous Secrets About Breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber
I touch my boobs a lot. I’m not kidding, a lot a lot. I’ve known this but recently I’ve noticed it even more.
Which got me thinking…
Breastfeeding: when your breasts see more action in one day as a breastfeeding parent than they typically do in a month when you’re not lactating. And that’s with an active and fun sex life. (See 9 Tips to Having More and Better Sex After Baby)
The other morning I woke up to rock hard boobs at 6am and in spite of it being a day when I was supposed to be able to sleep in and my baby was sound asleep, I had to get up. With my breasts full of milk, I was way too uncomfortable to sleep. My boobs were demanding I empty them and so while everyone else slept I joyfully got up and pumped.

Just kidding. I was decidedly not joyful.

I had not-so-nice-words for my pump, even though I like my pump and even though it typically seems to whisper encouragement when I’m pumping, this particular morning I swear it was hissing “eff you, eff you, eff you…”

(Yes, I’m grateful I can breastfeed and that I have enough milk to pump and be a milk donor and meet my baby’s needs but no, I wasn’t joyful to be up at 6am when I otherwise did not need to be.)
There have been a number of articles claiming to expose what nobody ever tells you about breastfeeding or what breastfeeding parents wish they knew about breastfeeding before they breastfed or what surprised them about breastfeeding. So many such articles (I’ve written a few myself), you’d think there was pretty much nothing that anyone actually knew about breastfeeding going into it. As though everyone must experience breastfeeding like “WHOA! NEVER SAW THAT COMIN’!”

Which is, honestly, kind of exactly what it is like. You just can’t REALLY know until you’re in it. There’s no way I would have truly understood just how much I’d be feeling my boobs until I was actually living it.

 While pumping before the sun was up that morning, I stated thinking again of some of the surprising aspects of breastfeeding and put together a new list for you. No, it doesn’t encompass everything and certainly we all have different experiences, but these were some of the ones that even I forget about.
Feeling yourself up. I never knew how often I’d touch my breasts but with breastfeeding I’m regularly handling them and not just to get baby latched. From quick little taps to see which side I should start my baby on to hand expression to breast massage to holding them if I dare the stairs when I’m braless to readjusting things through out the day (hey, they change a lot from one moment to the next!), I’m handling my boobs far more than I ever expected. At this point I do it frequently enough I’m pretty sure I do it in public without even noticing which probably looks a little strange to someone that hasn’t breastfed.
Waking the baby. Who would wake a sleeping baby? A desperate breastfeeding parent, that’s who. Listen, when you wake up and your boob hurts and there’s milk leaking everywhere and you know baby is going to be hungry at some point anyway, waking them to empty a breast that feels like it’s about to explode is basic survival. Besides, it’s not like they’re going to be disappointed.
A critical eye for boob-out-fashion. That dress looked super cute but… I couldn’t get a boob out and frankly we all know what would happen if baby got hungry and boobs started leaking and I couldn’t get the boob out to feed her. Cute or not, I’d rip it to shreds to get her what she needs.
Getting excited about pretty, comfortable, and functional bras. Ridiculously excited. It doesn’t look like a piece of hardware AND you can unclasp each side or pull down easily to feed baby? It’s like Christmas and my birthday all in one! Multiple color options? A touch of lace? Works with even lower cut tops? What is this sorcery? I must have it!
Human scratching post. Babies have razor blades for nails and also have a penchant for gripping things tightly, digging those nails into whatever comes near enough to grasp. Including boobs. Maybe specially boobs. It takes a lot to help baby get latched correctly, positioned comfortably, your breast supported, and somehow defend chest and breasts from baby Wolverine. Having boundaries, keeping their nails trimmed, and doing things like holding their hand or giving them something else to grasp can help or can just turn into a wrestling match with your boobs and chest bearing the brunt featuring welts, scratches, and stab wounds.
Ode to sour milk. I need nursing pads thanks to how much I leak and it can be at any moment. The breast pads help but the truth is I regularly smell like sour milk anyway. My bras, my tops, my sheets. I try to take comfort in the fact that this helps my baby recognize my smell.
So. Much. Time. In many ways breastfeeding can save time and often it can save money too but I am still surprised at just how much time I spend breastfeeding, preparing to breastfeed, thinking about breastfeeding, talking about breastfeeding, and in general, aware of breastfeeding. It may be natural but it didn’t come naturally for me so I spent a LOT of time on it and even when it did get easier, I still spend a lot of time on it. It’s a huge part of my daily life from washing pump parts to storing milk to wondering if that whiff of sour milk came from me to drooling over pretty nursing bras to actually feeding my baby to talking with other breastfeeding parents and sharing stories and information. It takes a lot of time and energy.

Skipping sleeping in. I wanted to sleep in that morning, desperately. There was no way. My breasts were killing me and I didn’t want to risk a clogged duct or possibly hurting my supply by not emptying them when they were full because my baby slept through a feeding. I skipped sleeping in to hook up to a machine that would empty my breasts. Naturally, when I was done putting everything away and laid back down hoping to catch a little more shut-eye, my baby woke up and was ready to feed and play.

It may be unglamorous but that’s a parenting fact, very little of bringing up tiny humans results in feeling put together and ready for the red carpet. But you can’t beat the smiles and snuggles that come with it!

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 21 years.
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